U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called in 27 players for a training camp in Orlando, Florida, ahead of the team’s three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers in the next three weeks.
While there was arguably only one surprise selection—that of Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi—there were a few surprising omissions and one player who unexpectedly declined Klinsmann’s invite. (See entire roster at bottom.)
Here are four thoughts on the roster:
• It’s time to jettison Timmy Chandler. The 22-year-old Nuremberg defender said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Klinsmann’s offer, turning down the U.S. for the second time in two years. He did have a busy season, but clearly, he’s still holding out hope for a call-up from Germany. (Appearing in a WC qualifier would have tied him to the U.S. forever.) But just like Germany has other options at outside back, so does the U.S. The rock-solid veteran Steve Cherundolo is not done yet, and two guys who are on this roster, Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson, can fill the role as capably as Chandler—or better, in the case of Johnson. Also: Edgar Castillo had a tremendous season at Club Tijuana this year, and Eric Lichaj, who was (somewhat surprisingly) not called in for this camp, came on strong for Aston Villa at the end of the season. Other possibilities include Birmingham City’s Jonathan Spector, and up-and-coming Molde defender/winger Josh Gatt. Chandler showed fairly well in his friendly appearances for the U.S., but it’s time to move on.
• They need to play with two forwards—and those forwards’ names should be Dempsey and Altidore. Ever since Klinsmann took over, there’s been much talk about instituting a 4-3-3, with many observers claiming to have spotted that formation in action for the U.S. We are not in that group. We’ve only ever seen a 4-5-1 (or a 4-2-3-1) or a 4-4-2 in the Klinsmann era. Frankly, the team has looked best in a 4-4-2, which is essentially their native formation. It’s more sound defensively, as it allows for two defensive-minded midfielders, it creates more possession, and perhaps most important, it doesn’t leave a lone forward stranded up top, struggling to hold possession and combine with teammates. Dempsey (23 goals for Fulham) and Altidore (19 for AZ Alkmaar) are both coming off career years. It’s time to see what they can do up top together.
• Which uninvited player was dealt the biggest snub? The quick answer here is Sacha Kljestan, the midfielder fresh from a championship season at Anderlecht. But Kljestan is competing against a deep and talented midfield and he doesn’t bring anything new to the table, while lacking some of the attributes of his competition (speed, for starters). So we say it’s a tie between Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj. Shea was a part of every single previous Klinsmann setup, and Lichaj plays a position (outside back) that needs to be re-stocked for the future. (There’s depth there, as we said, and it’s time to start tapping it.)
• Goal poachers Gomez and Wondolowski need to make the most of deserved call-ups. Gomez has been lighting it up in Mexico the past two seasons, and won a championship with Santos Laguna this year. Wondolowski leads MLS in scoring with 11 goals in 12 games. They’ve been properly rewarded by Klinsmann, but can they do it at the international level? Gomez had some success in the U.S. shirt in the run-up to South Africa 2010, but Wondo has yet to score in seven appearances for the Yanks. It’s Gomez’s first chance under Klinsmann, but it could be the last for both.
The team will be whittled to 23 players on Friday, May 25, and that group will take on Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday May 26 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), before traveling to Landover, MD, to meet Brazil on Wednesday May 30 (8:00, ESPN2).
On June 3, they’ll meet Canada at Toronto’s BMO Field (7:00, NBCSN), and then they’ll open the 2014 World Cup qualifying tournament with a match against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa (7:00, ESPN). Following that one comes the first true test of the Klinsmann era, a World Cup qualifier in the unwelcoming climes of Guatemala City (10:00 p.m., only on pay-per-view).
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (7): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)